At an event that was meant to promote good hygiene and a green environment in Sembabule, Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kahamba Kutesa shocked supporters when he announced his retirement from elective politics.
In parliament since 1980, Kutesa said at the weekend that the best option is for the older politicians to cede space to the younger generation. For his Mawogola North seat in parliament, Kutesa is fronting his daughter, Shartis Musherure Nayebare whom he says can build on his foundation to take the constituency to another level.
"The time now is for the young generation to take over," Kutesa said, drawing mixed reactions from his audience.
Taxi drivers and other onlookers at Sembabule taxi park ululated but the district's political class loyal to him appeared shocked.
"This is the time for the Shartis' (youths). You can see how she has managed to mobilise for this campaign [Keep Sembabule Clean and Green] yet I couldn't, so, have trust in her, she will do a lot for the area," Kutesa said.
70-year-old Kutesa joined parliament in 1980 as a DP MP having defeated then UPM leader Yoweri Museveni in Mbarara North (present-day Nyabushozi). He served as attorney general in the Gen Tito Okello Lutwa's government before switching sides to join Museveni who led a led a successful five-year guerrilla war that brought the NRM to power in 1986. Besides serving Museveni in different cabinet dockets, Kutesa also has first family connections courtesy of marriages between their children.
During the 1994 Constituency Assembly (CA) elections, Kutesa shifted base to Mawogola which he represented in the CA that wrote the 1995 Constitution. He went on to win the subsequent elections, sometimes controversially sailing through unopposed.
Well-placed sources have told The Observer that Kutesa's announcement at the weekend came at Museveni's urging who reportedly advised him to take leave from active politics given the challenges he is facing on the international front.
He, for instance, is named in a corruption scandal which led to the conviction of a Chinese businessman, Patrick Chi Ping Ho who allegedly gave Kutesa a $500,000 bribe while he (Kutesa) served as president of the UN General Assembly.
While Museveni promised to protect Kutesa, the minister is said to have rejected Museveni's suggestion that he even threatened to return to his old political home; the Democratic Party.
His political nemesis, Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo argues that because Kutesa did not like what Museveni told him, it is the reason why he told his audience at the weekend that the old guards need to cede space for the young generation.
"His statement was very pregnant, he was trying to tell Museveni that "if you want me to retire, you should also retire," it was a message to Museveni," Ssekikubo said.
By 2021, he will have made a quarter of a century as Mawogola MP, a period which has been characterised by fights with Ssekikubo. In their fight for supremacy over Sembabule's political affairs, the two politicians created rival camps that have in some incidences drawn guns at each other.
Ssekikubo inherited the rivalry from the late former speaker of the Buganda Lukiiko (parliament) Dr Higiro Ssemajege who represented Lwemiyaga in the National Resistance Council (NRC) and the CA.
Ssemajege's rivalry started with Kutesa's fronting of his cousin Sam Rwakoojo - the current secretary of the Electoral Commission (EC) to the Lwemiyaga seat in the sixth parliament. Ssemajege returned the favour by backing Ssekikubo's successful parliamentary bid in 2001.
The two camps appear to be have developed cracks with some key figures in either camps like Woman MP Anifah Bangirana Kawooya no longer in good terms with Kutesa while the state minister for Animal Husbandry Joy Kafura Kabatsi switched to Kutesa's camp and is now plotting to challenge Ssekikubo in Lwemiyaga.
Kabatsi reportedly moved to Lwemiyaga after Kawooya declined to challenge Ssekikubo whom she sees as a strong politician with a tight grip on the constituency. At the time, Kutesa was seen to be preparing Musherure for the Woman MP seat forcing Kawooya to look for a new political home in Mawogola South currently held by Joseph Ssekabiito.